In October I shared two short interviews with Manil Singh and Vibek Tuladhar where they spoke about their sexual orientation and coming out. I simply shared the stories to mark the National Coming Out Day on my blog and along the way, I saw how well the blogposts were received. Since then I had been searching for a story to share of a transgender man and today I have a short – to the point – interview with Elyn Bhandari.
I will aim to continue this section and share coming out stories of gay men, lesbian women, transgender men and women, intersex, bisexual, queer or questioning and more. Please let me know if you like this new feature.
LEX: Hi Elyn, how are you doing today?
ELYN: Hi Lex , I am doing well. Life is blessing me in many ways.
LEX: That’s always good to hear. Can I ask you to give me a short introduction on your childhood?
ELYN: I was born in Kathmandu at Teaching Hospital. I studied in Academy Boarding High School in Kathmandu. I completed till +2 and joined Bachelors and later I couldn’t complete my Bachelors because of my gender identity.
LEX: Thanks for that. Are you currently working at the moment?
ELYN: Currently I am working at the Blue Diamond Society.
LEX: Cool! Can you share what it is you do at BDS?
ELYN: I work in a project called Protection and Promotion of Rights of LGBTI children in Nepal. This project goal is to create LGBTI friendly school and family environment for LGBTI children. This work is very motivational for me. Having experienced challenges during my childhood, schooling and also within my family makes me want to work for an accepting environment for the upcoming generation.
LEX: That’s amazing to hear! I really wish you all the best with the project and hope it makes an impact on many. How was your journey of learning about yourself?
ELYN: I realised that I was different from other girls at the age of 12. Since childhood I never felt that I was a girl and in my teenage years I did not like the changes that my body was going through as it was making me more feminine so at first it was very difficult to accept myself. The challenges that I faced accepting myself is that I did not get friends or family support till I found Blue Diamond Society. And I used to suppress my feelings and did not share to anyone because I knew if I was going to tell about my identity, people would judge me and I used to be depressed as I did not have anyone who could understand me.
LEX: Can I ask who was the first person you told about your gender identity?
ELYN: To my first girlfriend.
LEX: How have the response been from your family and friends about you being a transgender man?
ELYN: When my family knew about me they had a negative reaction but over time they have become more tolerant towards my gender identity. Talking about friends when I first came out through Facebook some of them blocked me but after many years they again connected with me.
LEX: You’ve come a long way. To accept yourself and to be able to say, “I am a transgender man” or “I am gay” takes a lot of courage and is often the defining point in the lives of many from the LGBT community but it does not end there. How has the journey been till now?
ELYN: At the beginning it’s very hard to accept yourself but once you accept the way you are that makes it a lot more easy to face society. Talking about my journey I struggled a lot within society and being in public places as I was discriminated or made to feel low because of my gender identity. I have seen many ups and downs in my life. I faced a struggle around my family and relatives and that was the biggest challenge for me because you feel weak and alone without your family. The positive side of my struggle is that these challenges and obstacles made me much more strong from within and I now feel that I can face anything in life. And when I look back at my life I am proud of myself for coming this far and I am happy that my life is unique and I love who I am.
LEX: Do you have a goal that you are working towards?
ELYN: My goal or say career I would like to have is to be a figure for a community for transgender men. I want to work for Nepali transgender men as they are overshadowed by transwomen and people are still not aware about transmen and their issues. So I want to work more on transgender men’s community and help them to come out without fearing society. I want to work towards creating a good environment for them.
LEX: Has the way people perceive you or the LGBT community changed in your opinion?
ELYN: I think the Nepali society now is more aware of our community. I have also seen people taking this community positively and accepting us. There are people who struggle to accept our community and I think it depends on the individuals thinking but there has been a change in perception of people now if you compare it to the past.
LEX: What are the daily struggles that you face as a transgender man?
ELYN: I am discriminated because of my gender identity. When I travel in public transport I feel humiliated there because of my voice. Public toilets are another space of struggle for transmen as they are not comfortable in ladies toilet and when they go to gents toilet they are not comfortable there either. Verbal abuse while walking along the streets with people using offensive words like CHAKKA/HIJARA are things that make life difficult for transmen.
LEX: What’s the best thing about being a transgender man?
ELYN: The best thing about being a transgender man is that I was able to live the life of a female and now a male in this one life.